Hoisting a few brewskis

Overheard at Gordon Biersch a few days ago, one man to three others: “Let’s hoist a few brewskis.” (Well, GB is a brew pub.) Notable features: the verb hoist specialized for lifting a glass of something (usually something alcoholic, and especially beer) to drink, and then extended to convey simply ‘drink’ such a thing; brewski used for the count noun beer; the slang or colloquial status of both of these features; the American English character of them; and the association of them, especially brewski, with masculine contexts.

I first heard hoist a few brewskis used un-selfconsciously in the 1990s, in both cases from macho working-class men who were trying to establish a social rapport with me (college professors tend to induce either contempt or nervousness in such men, as do gay men; these were nice straight guys trying to find a masculine common ground with me). I can’t imagine myself using either the drinking verb hoist or (especially) the noun brewski except jocularly.

It turns out that brewski (and its variant brewsky) has made it into OED3 (Sept. 2008), where it appears to be a relatively recent innovation:

N. Amer. slang (orig. College slang). Beer; a drink of beer, esp. in a can or bottle.

1977    Sat. Night Live (transcript of TV programme) 29 Oct. in snltranscripts.jt.org (O.E.D. Archive) ,   Yes, we were extremely upset to find six-packs of brewski in the children’s trick-or-treat bags. [This is a mass noun use; all the rest are count.]

1982    Washington Post 7 Jan. dc5/2   Since the early 1950s, boys and belles from southern universities have spent their vacations in Myrtle, drinking brewskies.

1989    T. Bodett End of Road i. vii. 73   Stormy went up to the snack counter for a pair of long-neck beers… ‘Couple’a those brewskies would hit the ol’ spot’.

1993    S. Turow Pleading Guilty (1994) iii. xii. 186   He has his memories to keep him warm and a wife to set him straight whenever he’s had a brewski too many.

2007    Time Out N.Y. 15–21 Mar. 24/2   Everyone had that friend in college who was glued to his PlayStation while throwing back a few brewskies.

The -ski/-sky element is presumably the one in jocular innovations based on the final element in many Slavic names; of these (other than brewski itself), only buttinsky (slang, orig. U.S.) is widely attested, from 1902 on. The model is probably Russki (Russky, Roosky, etc.), which according to OED3 (March 2011) is chiefly slang or colloquial, sometimes derogatory ; it’s used as a noun for ‘the Russian language’ (from 1834) or ‘a Russian’ (from 1840), and as an adjective equivalent to the adjective Russian (from 1835).

Not (yet) in the OED are the count noun brew (equivalent to the count noun beer) or the use of transitive hoist as a drinking verb. On the latter, other dictionaries have subentries:

[Merriam-Webster Online] 1 : lift, raise; especially : to raise into position by or as if by means of tackle. 2 : drink 1 <hoist a few beers>.

[AHD4] 1. To raise or haul up with or as if  with the help of a mechanical apparatus… 2. To raise to one’s mouth in order to drink: hoist a few beers.

Hoist and brewski have an affinity for one another; there are thousands of raw ghits in which they co-occur, as here:

Hoist a few brewskis is a crossword puzzle clue that we have spotted 1 time. (link)

Barry, Hank and Jimbo hoist some brewskis
President Barack Obama has now invited both Professor Henry Gates and Sergeant James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department to the White House “for a beer.” One can only imagine what an orgy of awkwardness this will be. (link)

BEER GODDESS – Drink beer straight from the keg if you’re a beer god or beer goddess. Get a stein full of beer with these beer lover t-shirts & gifts. Hoist a cold brewski, goddess. (link)


And hoist in combination with the count noun brew ‘beer’ is also common:

Hoist a brew for EWEB’s 100th (link)

It’s an art-geek-techie monthly mashup where you hoist a few brews and explore the junction of ideas. (link)

As is hoist more generally in the beer-drinking use: hoist a few and hoist one (understood as referring to beer), and of course hoist with objects (the count noun beer or a synonym other than brewski or brew) referring to beer:

Sit back in front of the fire, play a little shuffleboard, watch your favorite sporting event and hoist a few beers along with Park City’s most colorful group of locals. (link)

I will hoist a glass of suds in your honor. (link)

Beer is the canonical thing hoisted for drinking, but other things are possible:

Join other Shearwater members when we hoist a glass of wine and share with friends at the Spring Wine Tasting Event, date TBD, at the O’Donnel’s home in Berrywood. (link)

And, they like to get together from time to time to hoist a cocktail or two and dream of literary success. She orders a Cosmo; he, a Manhattan. (link)

So, when you’re out this afternoon celebrating the birth of this fine nation, hoist a glass of rye whiskey (or Madeira) in honor of George Washington: Drinking Man. (link)

So hoist a glass of whatever it is you’re drinking and thank the man for all the wonderful cartoons ‘n’ creatures. (link)

Note that neither hoist nor brewski is restricted to masculine or collegiate use, but that both seem to be more common in those contexts than elsewhere, so they come with a sociocultural resonance.

The association of brewski with North American English is very strong, however, and the association of hoist seems pretty strong as well (even in expressions like hoist a tankard).

[Note: lift doesn’t work quite the same way as hoist. The most common drinking expression with lift is lift a glass, though lift a beer does occur. But lift a glass (not further specified) doesn’t implicate beer the way that hoist a glass does. And lift a glass is entirely ordinary in British and Australian English.]

One Response to “Hoisting a few brewskis”

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